Why must the stuntman lecture me about movie piracy?
This is what I asked myself recently while waiting for the feature presentation to start at the Beverly Center theaters. The same goes for the set painter who told me not to steal movies just before a showing at another cinema a few weeks earlier.
For the last few months, the Motion Picture Assn. of America has been running a series of 60-second movie trailers to discourage people from downloading pirated copies of films.
The trailers attempt to use the average-Joe, below-the-line industry worker to convince us that we're not actually taking product from multibillion-dollar corporations when we download films. Rather, we're stealing food from the mouths of our fellow wage slaves.
Forget for a moment how monumentally obnoxious it is for a group of global conglomerates to hide their unbridled greed behind the face of helpless working men. Forget also for a moment that this is an industry that would fire that set painter or stuntman in a second if it could save a nickel by shooting their scenes in Canada.
What actually bothered me the most after seeing this so-called public service ad is that it was followed by an ad for a soft drink, another ad for a computer game and an ad for an online service.
I have also had to endure ads in movie theaters for TV shows, cars, the Army and a variety of other products unrelated to the movie or movie previews.
Piracy is generally about the unauthorized taking or use of someone else's property. I did not authorize anyone to show me these commercials. I did not authorize anyone to take my time and sell it to an advertiser. Nowhere in the theater that charges me $9.50 for a ticket does it say my time and attention will be "pirated" by these other corporate entities.
I believe piracy works both ways. When the MPAA first announced its antipiracy campaign, President Jack Valenti said, "Taking something that doesn't belong to you is wrong." I agree. Those five minutes before the movie previews start do not belong to anyone but me. They do not belong to the movie theater. They do not belong to the MPAA.
When the movie theater starts showing its ads, or the MPAA thrusts its propaganda at me without my permission, they are perpetrating an unauthorized use of my time. In my mind, they are the real pirates.
As this MPAA campaign proclaims, "Movies. They're worth it." Well, the movies may be worth it. But the nonsense before they start the film would be better left for a download.
John Derevlany is a writer-producer who once played Crackers the Corporate Crime-Fighting Chicken on Michael Moore's "TV Nation." He lives in Culver City.